Precedent: Queensville, East Gwillimbury

The Bradford Bond Head Planning Area and OPDI proposals are not without precedent. Queensville, in neighbouring East Gwillimbury, York Region, is an approved large-scale development.

At present, Queensville is a small hamlet of 620 people (see Map 5). In the 1980s, with support from the Province, the Town of East Gwillimbury undertook community plans for each of its settlement areas. Queensville landowners approached the Town with a proposal to develop Queensville as the new centre for the Town and the Queensville Secondary Plan was developed. In 1989, the Town of East Gwillimbury adopted an Official Plan Amendment directing growth to the settlement of Queensville. Both York Region and the Province rejected the proposed amendments at that time, finding the project incompatible with established development policies. In 1995, East Gwillimbury adopted another version of the amendment that was approved by York Region. Landowner Queensville Properties Inc. played a key role promoting the Queensville Community Plan to the Town and the Region.122

Queensville Properties, the proponent of the plan, obtained approval in 1998 to expand Queensville to a town of 30,000 people, with 12,000 jobs, covering 1,187 hectares by 2021. The Queensville Community Master Plan features a Town Centre, pedestrian-oriented streets, university lands, industrial lands, and a linked school, park, and open space system.123

The Queensville Community Plan was appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board in 1998 by residents concerned about the impact on their lands. At the time of the OMB hearing, the Town and the Region supported the development proposal, as did the local school boards and various provincial authorities.

The OMB sided with the Town and the Region and approved the development. In its decision, the OMB found that the plan for Queensville was appropriate both in terms of its internal form and feasibility and its location within the broader region. It pronounced the development to be good planning, noting that it "allows planning to march well ahead of development or other impersonal forces such as the market or conglomeration of population." The Board stressed that a "well-crafted plan" includes concerns for the "environment, relative location to other settlement areas, the Regional context for growth, the feasibility of the infrastructure and a sense of new urbanism." It noted that the success of large-scale development depends on the way in which transportation, water and sewage infrastructure are provided and on creating developments with higher than normal densities. The Board found that the urban form, mix of land uses and density of the Queensville Plan met this test. It especially applauded the controls on development contained in the plan, including phasing mechanisms and the designation of an urban boundary. Finally, the Board found that the development's location within the greater region was defensible, stating that it "lies in the path of growth and is in keeping with the long-term objectives of the Region to manage growth."124

As in much of Simcoe County, provision of services in East Gwillimbury is a challenge. Development in the existing village of Queensville is primarily serviced by private septic tanks. However, given the scale of the Queensville new town, the proponent has extensive plans for stormwater management and sewage disposal. York Region has committed to assist in providing the necessary infrastructure by connecting a trunk sewer to the York-Durham Servicing Scheme.

Phasing of the Queensville Plan also depends on construction of the Highway 404 extension. Without adequate transportation capacity from Queensville south to parts of York Region and Toronto, the viability of a full build-out by 2021 is unlikely.

Queensville was approved for several reasons:

  • the Town of East Gwillimbury was seeking to define a node to which growth could be directed;
  • the developer successfully brought the Town and the Region on side, resulting in its plan becoming integrated into the Town's own planning process;
  • the OMB ruled the development justified and well-conceived.

The Queensville case is a useful comparison to the development proposals for Simcoe County, both in terms of its development form and the process through which it was approved. Allan Duffy, the Queensville developer, is also project manager for the proposed Ontario Potato Distributors development in New Tecumseth.

122. Ontario Municipal Board. Decision delivered by S.W. Lee and Order of the Board. OMB File No. 0970190. Issued April 7, 1998. 2.
123. Town of East Gwillimbury, Regional Municipality of York. Queensville Community Master Plan Summary Report. June 2000. 2-3.
124. Ontario Municipal Board. Decision delivered by S.W. Lee and Order of the Board. OMB File No. 0970190. Issued April 7, 1998.